News / Asia

WHO Describes New Chinese Bird Flu Strain as 'Lethal'

Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment of World Health Organization (WHO), right, answers questions during Shanghai press conference, April 22, 2013.Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment of World Health Organization (WHO), right, answers questions during Shanghai press conference, April 22, 2013.
x
Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment of World Health Organization (WHO), right, answers questions during Shanghai press conference, April 22, 2013.
Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment of World Health Organization (WHO), right, answers questions during Shanghai press conference, April 22, 2013.
William Ide
A top World Health Organization official says a new strain of bird flu in China that has already killed 22 people and spread throughout seven provinces and municipalities is one of the most lethal of its kind to date.

A group of WHO specialists spoke with reporters Wednesday about the H7N9 virus, which has already infected more than 100 people in China. The WHO team arrived late last week for a five-day visit to learn more about the new virus.

According to Keiji Fukuda, the WHO assistant director for health security, at this point, there is still not enough evidence to show the virus can spread easily from human to human.

“When we look at influenza virus this is an unusually dangerous virus for humans…Based on the evidence that we see we think that this virus is more easily transmitted from poultry to humans than H5N1," he said.

Health workers take a blood sample from a chicken in Hong Kong, April 11, 2013.Health workers take a blood sample from a chicken in Hong Kong, April 11, 2013.
x
Health workers take a blood sample from a chicken in Hong Kong, April 11, 2013.
Health workers take a blood sample from a chicken in Hong Kong, April 11, 2013.
The H5N1 strain of bird flu surfaced in 2003.  In the past decade, it has swept across three continents and killed more than half of the 622 people it has infected.

WHO and Chinese health officials stress the effort to understand the new strain is still in its early stages.

Liang Wannian of the National Health and Family Planning Commission says just how effective the government’s prevention measures will be remains unclear. He says the extent of the public health risk from the virus remains uncertain, as well.

"There are many unknown factors, including the source of the virus, the mutation of the virus, the pathogenicity, the virulence, the migration, the clinical symptoms and the epidemiological situation of the virus, so we need to study a lot, there are so many things that remained to be studied and learned," he said.  

Chinese and WHO scientists all agree that birds infected by the virus, especially poultry, are the likely sources of human infection.

Nancy Cox, director of the Flu Division at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was also part of the WHO team.

"So far, no samples from migratory birds or their habitats have been positive for H7N9," Cox said. "In contrast, samples from chickens, ducks and pigeons have been positive for H7N9 from poultry markets.   Also environmental samples taken from poultry markets have been positive."

So far, the majority of deaths and infections from the new strain have occurred in Shanghai. Like many other cities where the virus has cropped up, authorities there have closed down live poultry markets, in response.

Anne Kelson, director of the WHO Flu Research center in Melbourne Australia said the market closings appear to be helping.

“We know that Shanghai rapidly on April 6 closed down their poultry markets in that municipality and it's been very encouraging to see that almost immediately there was a decline in the detection of the new cases and the cases that did occur all occurred in the next week, which you might expect to be within the incubation period of the virus," she noted.

Still, Kelson added that this is no reason to relax. She said close monitoring of the impact the closure of such facilities should continue in the weeks and months to come.

Although Chinese authorities said more than half of those infected have been individuals who had direct contact with poultry or birds, how the remaining number of those infected contracted the virus is less certain.

The government has carried out tens of thousands of tests on birds but only several dozen have turned up positive.

And, in one of the two cases of bird flu in Beijing so far, a young boy contracted the virus, without showing any symptoms of H7N9.

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More